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Washington 46, Sarah Polk 24, Us 22, Sarah 18, Taylor 18, James K. Polk 16, Zachary Taylor 15, Texas 14, America 13, Mexico 13, Abigail Fillmore 12, Abigail 10, Polk 10, Tennessee 9, Jackson 9, United States 8, Fha 8, Millard 7, Henry Clay 7, D.c. 7,
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  CSPAN    Capitol Hill Hearings    News/Business.  

    August 13, 2013
    9:00 - 12:00am EDT  

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and a senior policy analyst for the tomorrow night here on c-span town hall will look at the implementation of the 2010 health care law, the affordable care act including today's news that the administration will delay implementation of the section of the law covering limits to out of -- costs for consumers and we'll check in with congressional town halls and the questions that they're getting on the health care law and your calls and tweets and facebook posts beginning tomorrow at 7:00 eastern on c-span town hall. season two of first ladies' influence and image begins monday, september 9 with a look at the life of edith roosevelt. all this month we're showing encore presentations of season one. each week night at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span programs on every first lady from martha washington to ida mckinley. tonight, sarah polk, mark rhett taylor and abigail fillmore.
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[captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] sarah polk was on diplomacy and her strong suit is intelligence and political discussion. >> she made no bones about the fact she took an interest in politics. and that she was her husband's partner. >> she grew naup political household in tennessee. her father was a local politician so she grew up loving politics. she married james after he won a seat in the legislature. because she would not have married him if he had -- >> unfortunately for james k. polk he died three months after leaving the white house. and sarah began a 42-year widowhood. polk place became a shrine to her husband and she would invite anybody who wanted to to come to visit and see the objects she had collected through her long and illustrious political career.
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>> to live there for many years on her own. during the civil war, generals on both sides would come and visit her to pay respects. it is an interesting commentary on what beloved status she eld. >> she was honest about her husband's work. she went to every post she could go to with him. she went through the arduous journey. she was very well-liked in the diplomatic community. they met all kinds of people. friends and enemies and others. they had to make things work. they were very experienced people. they were more sophisticated than what is around them. >> she felt that women should develop their mind and cultivate scholarship as much s men. pretty groundbreaking at that point in our history for a first lady to do. >> today, first ladies have causes, literacy and reading would have been abigail fillmore's cause.
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this bookshelf was of the first white house library. she much preferred being in a room with a good book to standing in a receiving line making mindless chatter. >> abigail was a wonderful seamstress. we do have her quilt here. a very colorful quilt. >> she was one of the true intellectuals. she loved reading. she was very caught up on politics and very much liked being a part of all the cultural accoutrements that came with living in washington. >> welcome to c-span series "first lady's influence and image." in this we will meet three irst ladies. they served during the 1840's and early 1850's as tensions continue to grow over the issue of slavery.
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to introduce us to sarah polk emma margaret taylor, and abigail fillmore, we have two historians. an author and historian in historic preservation. and a historian and legal scholar based at albany law school, the author of a biography of millard fillmore. welcome to both of you. james k. polk is sometimes described as the least known influential president. would you agree with that and why? >> is certainly not are well-known, and he is certainly important. when he was nominated for president, he had no public office. he had twice lost the governorship of tennessee. before that he had been a one term governor, and before that a member of congress. he was a lawyer, practicing law in tennessee. he was what is known as the dark horse candidate. he had hoped to get the vice president's nomination, that is what he was pushing for. and suddenly, out of nowhere polk is the presidential
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nominee. most people don't know who he is. he becomes president and almost immediately puts us in a position to have a war with mexico. he pushes for the war. he is prepared to declare war on mexico, and sends troops, including zachary taylor, who will be the next president, he send zachary taylor to the mexican border in an area that is completely disputed at all international asset belongs to mexico. polk says it is american land. while taylor's troops are there, he goes to his counted and they vote on a saturday afternoon to ask for a declaration of war against mexico. that night, he gets a message, because it takes a long time to get information from mexico to washington. that night he gets a message that taylor's troops have been in combat. he rewrites his message to congress, saying, american troops have been killed on american soil. abraham lincoln would later
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give a speech in which he would say, show us the spot where it took place. it was not on american soil. he gets us into war in mexico. it also means the complete blowup of all the compromises and cushions the country headlong into what would ultimately be secession and civil war. but we don't know anything about him. > his wife is also, frequently when you do modern struggle surveys of influential first ladies, she is always in the top tier. always. >> why? >> she was truly a political partner with her husband. they did not have children at a time when women were expected to be mothers and hearth and home, the keepers of the faith. she was very much her husband's political equal and his partner. she never went too far within the boundaries of what a proper victorian or early victorian lady should be in the 19th
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century. that everyone knew that they shared an office in the private apartments. she was active in discussions at the many state dinners they had. and he would ask her to mark newspapers and articles for him to read. she was a sounding board. franklin pierce before he became president, told her husband that he would much rather talk politics with sarah polk then with james polk. and yet, the women of the time excepted her. she was very highest, very religious. a strict presbyterian. she did not allowed to go white house. she got rid of hard liquor. but they had wine and brandy with the frequent dinners they had. she was not a prude, but very much a woman who knew what she wanted and that her rules out
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and everyone had to play according to those rules. she was respected for it. she was very popular. >> to introduce you to the polks, we will take you to the polk ancestral home. the house they lived in together no longer exist. but this historic site contains much of the history of the family. we will take you there ext. >> this is the inaugural fan. an incredible piece of history. it was a gift from president polk to his wife, sarah. she carried it with her on day of his inauguration. it is gilt paper with bone styles and lithographic images of the first 11 presidents from washington all the way through james k polk. she carried it with her all throughout the inauguration in the spring of 1845. the back is as beautiful as the front and features a lithographic image of the
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declaration of independence. the pokes came into the white house, a young, vibrant couple amidst a democratic party that was widely split. james k. polk said he would run for a single term only and then step down. sarah polk used the white house to enhance her husband olitical prestige. dining in their white house was a serious affair. twice a week, on tuesdays and fridays, mrs. polk would entertain 50-75 people coming to dinner. the china that they used was beautiful. it is considered some of the most beautiful of the white house china. it features the presidential seal embossed along the side, the dinners that is white embossed with gold. they had a tea set that was blue and a dessert set in green. she did not allow alcohol in the white house, her presbyterian upbringing precluded that. that is not exactly the case. she stopped the serving of whiskey punches, but mine was
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one of their largest goals during their years there. the more interesting objects in the collection, speaks to sarah and her ability with music am a e have a music book that has handwritten notations. one of the songs featured inside is the song hail to the chief, which she is credited with starting as the official presidential anthem during her ime as first lady. >> a moment to ask about that. there is a little controversy between our last program with the tylers, who are also claiming that they introduced "hail to the chief." is there a definitive answer on that jacko >> i won't touch t. [laughter] >> it came about in the 1840's it is possible that the tylers used and the polks and confirmed its use. it is silly to worry about something about that. there are so many more important is to talk about.
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>> you drew the contrast with juliet tyler who brought dancing to the white house. who ended her brief tenure by throwing a huge party as they left the white house. was sarah polk more in touch with the times? >> sarah polk -- it has been called an imperial presidency. meaning that the couple fought the office of the presidency and the white house as the official executive residence needed to be highly respected. it was more formal protocol and so on. it was a very liberal approach. you could come with an introduction to any of their receptions. polk was a democrat. at the same time, they were well dressed, there were more formal dinners. there were multiple
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courses. it was considered an honor to be at the white house. basically, sarah polk said, dancing at the white house is not dignified. >> she was known for frugality. the president making a $25,000 a year salary, and expenses for the what has huckabee paid out of that. how was her frugality seen by washington and the public? >> she reorganized the staffing at the white house. she was very well organized. what she did was hired a steward. they brought in their own servants and got rid of some of the paid that the white house. she then got her steward to cut deals with the various vendors, grocers, and so on in the washington area. if they give them significant discounts, they would give them the royal seal, as it were. >> endorsement?
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>> it is the american version of that. if you want us to buy all of your roles for all of our white house dinners, which were a lot, then you'll have to give us a discount. it worked. they were very frugal in that way. during the entire time they were married. >> just to clarify, she brought in her own servants, these were slaves. >> i was about to say, she owned those servants. that is important to understand. that they come from very wealthy circumstances and our slaveowners and bring a lot of assets with them. again, they can afford to be president, just as john tyler can afford to be president. >> we have a quote from her, i would like to have you put this into context. she writes -- if i can be so fortunate as to reach the white house, i expect to live on
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$25,000 a year and i will neither keep house or make butter." >> like hillary clinton the cookies. >> the context of it, someone said, i think i will vote for his opponent in the race, because they say his wife keeps a good house. and makes her own butter. that was sarah's retort. by god, she did live on the $25,000 a year and did not keep house. she ran the house. she did not make butter. she made sure that utter was made efficiently and the place was run well. >> slave mistresses don't make butter must they enjoy the handicraft of making butter. it is important to see this love for sarah polk and for margaret taylor.
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>> i want to tell folks that this is an interactive program. we are working facebook comments and tweets in already. we also want to take your telephone calls. who put the phone number on the screen and began taking your phone in questions as well throughout our program here. the three first ladies we are featuring in this part of the series. dolley madison has been part of our series -- this is her last hurrah. what was her role with the polk white house? >> she had come back to washington. sarah polk and dolly became very close. dolly mentor to sarah and sarah fed her. >> which was important because she was very broke. >> she treated her as the grand dame and honored her in their entertainment. they were the two war first
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ladies. war of 1812 in the mexican war. there are many parallels between the two. the sense of self, the sense of fashion, the understanding the role of the first lady and conveying of the -- sort of, indirect that would support her husband's residency. it is not easy to be a first lady during war. ou were many detractors as the war went on. polk went in and said i will do the following things in four years, and he did. >> this is also the first time we have photography. and we have a fabulous photograph to show you on screen right now. which brings together a number of these characters all in one place. here are the polks, dolly
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madison is the second from the ight with her turbine. and we have an opportunity here to see harriet lane, served as white house hostess later on. and sarah polk and dolly madison and james k. polk. photography as a political ool, how do politicians absorb this new technology and begin to use it for their benefit? >> they are just beginning to figure this out. you really don't get it until the 1850's and maybe the 1860 election when photography is everywhere. now it is almost a novelty. it is not all that terrific. you have to sit for a long time. it is not a single shot in the picture is there. you have to sit there rigidly and not move while the photograph is being taken. they are moving toward photography. much more important than
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photography is the very sophisticated line of type and art in newspapers. you have wonderful campaign posters being done. when polk runs, currier of currier and ives does a campaign poster for his pponent. with a picture of henry clay. they are using that kind of technology. photography you probably want to save for the fillmore's and beyond. >> we also have the first known photograph of the white house. we will show it next. we are working with the white house historical association throughout the series. as we look at this white house of 1846, sarah polk brought some innovations to the white house. central heating and gas
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lighting. >> she didn't actually bring them. let's say they arrived. central heating and asked lighting, she didn't hold out when they put in the gaslight and insisted the oval room of the white house be left with candlelight. when they turned on the gaslight, when they shut it down for the light, the whole white house went dark. the oval room was still lit with the beautiful candlelight. there were experiments. it ultimately failed the presidential family a lot of money. they had to keep the white house out of that $25,000 salary. these efficiencies did come in, starting with the polks. >> central heating in the white house must've been a great nnovation. >> it must've been a joke. [laughter] i don't think you would have been very warm.
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>> other than the alternative. >> got it. >> you wonder, the nice warm fireplace in the right room keeps that room warm. what you are getting at, which is always true for the white house, for every presidency, is that technology is going to change the way president campaign, the way they betray themselves and the way presidential families live. notice, by the way, you just had a picture of him sitting there. that is what you had to do when you are getting a photograph taken. i just saw a picture of john kennedy giving a speech with his fist in the air. you can almost see his fist shaking in the photograph. you can do that here. >> not as much sense of personality in the us photographs. >> we get a bad sense of personality. that these people are absolutely stiff and frozen and have no personality. they are dead. >> it is daybreak to keep them still. >> they are not smiling.
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it would be too hard to smile that long. >> the question from twitter -- what was sarah's educational background that allowed her to be so politically savvy and an equal to her famous husband? >> her father was a great leader in educating women. she and her older sister were educated at academies in urphysboro, nashville, and then he sent them to the salem academy in winston-salem. salem college today. 500 miles away. it took him a month to get there. they were there for two years. she was unusually well-educated for her time. i think that atmosphere encouraged her to speak her mind and participate in discussions. she grew up in a political household. >> next question on twitter -- we will answer by video. dave murdoch asked -- et's watch this video.
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then we will talk with you about this, because you have done some work on her gowns. let's watch. >> how sarah looked was important to her and how she was perceived by the public. it was also a reflection on the presidency itself. she was known for having beautiful dresses and looking incredible in a white house that was equally beautiful. the blue dress was purchased in paris in 1847 and worn by her ate in the administration. it is basically a robe. it was the undressed dress costume of a first lady if she was taking visitors before she was properly dressed. the white dress is a ballgown, also made in paris, france. high-end fashion for the 1840's.
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the cat in the center. a stylesheet used again and again. we get the indication she found a style she liked and kept with it. it is a beautiful gown in silk and satin. a great deal of lace attached, as well. always the frugal woman that she was, she often purchased dresses and would buy a great deal of material to go along with them so she could enhance them and change the way they look. instead of having to buy five or six gallons, she would buy a single gown, and change them. she had a wonderful collection of handbags and purses. er jewelry was of the american mode in the 19th century. it was thought to be un-american for women to wear precious gems and semi precious stones. you would wear gold and silver, french paste and enamelware. her headdresses were unusual. only a few have survived from this time.
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because they are made out of silk and satin and tend to get worn out. we have a wonderful collection of headdresses. one unusual piece, a turbine. by the 1840's which probably would have fallen a little bit out of fashion. we wonder if sarah polk may be adopted that style after dolly madison. >> the author of this cover story in the white house history magazine, published by the white house historical association, showing that you have done a lot of work on sarah polk's approach to fashion and what it symbolized. what can you tell us the bikes she had a well-established sense of style from her childhood. during the white house years, she dressed elegantly for evenings and receptions. in the summer of 1847, they sent an order to paris for some downs for the first lady. it was not the usual style.
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all the invoices arrived, and so did the gowns, which is amazing. the top designers in paris were asked to make some gowns are the first lady. this is usually done by a commercial agent that they had. he got the order and immediately found his good riend, "good friend", when around the paris shops and ound and made three gowns. one at the smithsonian, the pink one, and the blue gown survive. it was very unusual for her. this order for clothes, lots of accessories, about $450. dolley madison's order in 1811
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ost $2000. to give you an idea. the pink gown you saw had more ace on it. the others were about $25, made by seamstresses in washington. the fabric would've an extra. >> she was trying to find that sweet spot between frugality and image. >> she did so so well. everyone said she was beautifully dressed, had been full deportment. she carried herself like a lady, acted like a lady and was very gracious. >> at the same time we are learning about sarah polk and her modern approach to being a political partner, what is happening to women out large and united states? what is going on with women overall? at a beginning to ask for more power in society?
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>> the people in seneca falls are. it is important to have some perspective on what is happening to women at this time. for most american women, not much is changing and being asked. the most important changes for women, the cutting edge of women in politics, is coming out of the antislavery movement. you have thousands of women who are politically active, really for the first time in american history. starting in the 1830's, the great petition campaign. hundreds of thousands of petitions show up in washington, asking congress to do things like not annexed texas. it was seen as a great slave conspiracy, which it was. end slavery and the district of columbia. many of these were gathered by women, and many women sign these petitions. what you get is women actively participating in politics to change america for the
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better. the other great women's movement is the temperance movement. they are active in movements to prevent prostitution. these are things that are close to what would be considered omesticity for women, but is outside the house. it is in the public space. someone like sarah polk, with the exception of temperance, would have been appalled at what these women were asking for. eventually, by 1848, someone in and a few men, such as frederick douglass, are asking for the right to vote for women. that is a long time in coming. it is beginning at this time. >> headers on the phone from jackson,, mississippi. what is your question? >> i would like to know who ran against james k. polk when he as running for president and
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did sarah polk play the part? >> polk runs against henry clay from kentucky. clay had run twice again before this. he thinks it is his turn. he expects it will be a cake walk, because nobody has heard of jim spoke. he makes a number of mistakes during the campaign, and in the end, in a very close vote, clay loses to polk. oddly enough, he carries polk's home state.
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>> the issue of a presidential campaign at that time, very different from what we see today. it was considered a proper for the candidate to be called to office. active campaigning went to state offices like the governor. the candidates did not show up at the nominating conventions, afterwards when the were drafted and accepted the nomination, air with letters and the editor, but very little stump -- no stumping at all. sarah was her husband's campaign manager for his congressional campaign and gubernatorial campaign. during the presidential
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campaign, it was very much, basically, whatever you do they say, don't say anything. >> when he ran for congress, he would tend the district. he ran for governor three times, went all over the state of tennessee. one wonders what was going on in his mind when he was nominated for president. he had to sit home and do nothing except write a few letters. >> next is a question from mary in little rock. hi, mary. >> i heard somewhere that barbara bush is related to the polks and she used their dinner service while her and george bush was in the office. is that true? >> i don't know. good question. >> as our series progresses, as we get it barbara bush, we'll answer that question for you. we'll go back in time and learn about how that political partnership came together. you told us sarah polk was from a wealthy family in tennessee. how did she and james polk meet? >> they ran in the same circles. probably through -- either through andrew jackson or through her own father's family.
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polk went to the -- graduated from the university of north carolina and then went into law and studied in nashville and became clerk of the legislature and they met there or they met at andrew jackson's because the polk girls were often at the jackson's home. certainly jackson is known or we think that he advised polk to marry her. this is who you need as a wife, he would say. and then it is commonly said that she told polk she wouldn't marry him unless he ran for office but and of course he did and he won and they were married in 1824. >> so andrew jackson played something of a matchmaker here? >> he and his wife did not have children of their own and had many, many different young people that they took in. jackson would write to sarah and call her "my daughter." >> and patricia on facebook asked, is it true that a nickname for sarah polk was the spanish madonna? >> yes.
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>> where did that come from? >> she had extremely dark hair and olive skin and they thought she looked european, exotic. >> the jacksons had no children but sarah and james k. polk had no children. what was the impact of being freed up from housework and not having to do that and her ability to become a political partner? >> i think they breezed into that through the years when they realized they weren't going to have children. by the same token, they spent a lot of time with nieces and nephews and sarah, as first lady, brought her nieces into the white house to help her with entertaining and returning calls because she did not return calls. as first lady, she did not it, which was a change in tradition. but and then when of course she was a widow, she had a niece and
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great niece who lived with her. >> can i also add, had they had children, she would have had slaves who would have raised the children who would have done all the diapers and slaves who would have been wet nurses when the children were infants so the notion of the burden of families for someone like sarah polk would be very different than, say, when we talk about abigail fillmore who is a woman of modest means and those raise her own children without the help of a house full of slaves to do the work for her. >> so sarah and james come to congress here in washington. what is washington like at that time and how involved was she in listening to congressional debates? >> she was very actively involved. he went for his first term
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without her and never tried that again because she didn't like being left alone at all. it was at that time he lived in a boarding house and several different elected officials lived together and shared meals and a parlor and they did that for years until he became speaker and then they had to have larger apartments but she attended the sessions of congress. she was very, very attentive to the issues of the day, and the elected members of congress who were in the mess with her knew she was a very tuned in congressional wife. >> james k. polk makes it to speaker of the house. how did that happen? >> politicking. i mean, he's a very good politician in the house. the first time he runs for speaker of the house, he loses. and he loses to a man who would later run for president in 1860,
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and then in the next time around he manages to win. part of it has to do with jacksonian politics. polk is jackson's man in the house of representatives and so when jackson has a strong majority in the house, polk gets to be speaker of the house. >> we have throughout our history seen the ascendancy of the presidency and the ascendancy of congress. at this point in our history, which branch of government has more power? >> i would say congress. >> so being the speaker was important? >> being the speaker -- now, being the speaker is not as powerful as being president and we should understand that. but in terms of the politics of america, more, i think, is happening in congress than in the presidency. andrew jackson is an extraordinarily strong and dynamic president who pushes the envelope of the presidency and really alters the dynamics of the presidency for his presidency. it reverts back, say, when john tyler becomes president. he's a very weak president. and so being speaker of the
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house was important just as it's important today. >> it sounds like from this quote that sarah polk had a view of this when her husband was in the role. here's what she wrote -- "the speaker, if the purpose person and with the correct idea of his position, has even more influence over legislation and in directing the policy of the parties, than the president." says she. >> the polk -- particularly when he became president was a powerful president. in terms of waging war, he pulled a lot of power into the executive branch, but henry clay is the one we all think of as building the job of the speaker of the house, the man who ran for president forever. but through the years the speaker's job grows, the presidency grows in power. it ebbs and flows, the balance of power is the key to the whole thing in that nobody ever just completely runs away with it and
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it was set up so that could not happen. >> our next video demonstrates the role of sarah polk as the political wife. >> the traveling desk is really indicative of sarah's life with james k. polk mainly has his help mate. james k. polk had no staff either as politician or president of the united states. the traveling desk she took with her on the long trips to washington, d.c. as a congressman, they traveled to washington in trips that could take 30 days and she's of course communicating with family and friends back home which means she wrote tens of thousands of letters during her lifetime so the traveling desk is indicative of communication in the time period. the portraits are painted by ralph earl when james and sarah were in washington as congressman and lady. sarah was a help mate to him
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through the his political career. when he was writing speeches, he would get her opinion and she would critique them for her. daily she would read the newspapers and underline passages for him to read. she was a regular fixture in the gallery in congress and this is a great time to hear speeches of politicians like henry clay and john calhoun giving their greatest speeches in the time period and she was in the middle of all of it, very much a part of his political career so 14 years a member of the house of representatives, last four of those the speaker of the house, the only speaker to become president, which brings with it a new level of social status in washington, d.c. and sarah very much played the part of one of the official hostesses in
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washington. typically, congress would enact a memorial to the outgoing speaker of the house officially thanking him for his service. when james k. polk left congress to run for governor of tennessee, the congress was so divided, they refused to do that but in the newspapers a number of politicians wrote poems in honor of sarah at the time she left. one was united states supreme court justice joseph storey who wrote a lengthy poem lamenting the loss of sarah polk to washington society. >> today we would be amazed at a speaker of the house stepping down to run for governor. why did he decide to do this? >> i think because being speaker of the house is something that you didn't do for a really long time in those days. congressional careers are often short in the 19th century and three or four terms in washington is probably enough. again, think of the arduous task of just getting to washington from tennessee, once or twice a year. it's a lot of work, a lot of effort, and being the governor is somewhat easier. it's probably less expensive. you are home and being the governor is a good way to build
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a political career for the vice presidency or presidency. what polk's eye is on is the presidency. he doesn't think he could be president. but he thinks he could be vice president. >> next, the vice president next. >> and the pathway to the white house? >> the vice presidency is not a very good pathway to the white house. since thomas jefferson, only martin van buren had made it as vice president and tyler did only because of the death of the president. >> sandy is watching from new new castle, delaware. >> my question is, what did sarah think about slavery and was she a kind slave master? >> the -- james k. polk in his will made an expression that he hoped that when she died she would manumit their slaves. as it turned out, she sold their plantation before the civil war but the issue of slavery was not really brought to the forefront
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during -- either in this marriage or during his administration. it became much more critical with the administrations that follow polk. >> i think in some ways that's not true. >> go ahead. >> the politics of america from the 1830's to the 1860's is swirling around slavery all the time. the opposition to the mexican war which polk starts and which we did not have to have, the opposition to the mexican war in part comes from northerners who see it as a vast conspiracy to steal mexico so that slave owners can have someplace to go and southerners say as much. they say we want mexico because we want a place for slavery to
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spread to. slavery is on the table. the reality is. the polks are slave owners, they are not opposed to slavery. they like being slave owners. being a slave owner is very good for the polks and i suspect that she treated her slaves as kindly or as unkindly as was necessary to get the labor and the support from the slaves that she wanted. >> heath in franklin, tennessee, your question. >> a hero of mine is a nephew of sarah polk named general lucious polk. he served with general patrick claiborne and tried to get the confederacy, petitioned the confederate government to end slavery and get african- americans to fight for the south. he was wounded several times during the war and at some point he was sent behind lines and
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allowed to stay in columbia, tennessee, and he would eventually run the ku klux klan out of murray county but sarah polk, i've heard, somehow, kept him from going to union prison camps when any other confederate prisoner would have been sent to union prison camps. i heard she was afforded power because the union people just respected her so much. >> heath, thank you. i'm going to jump in because our time is short and it's important to say james k. polk announced he would be a one-term president and we will get to your question because the civil war does come and sarah polk is a widow. how long does james k. polk live after leaving the white house. >> three months. >> three months. and so what happens to sarah polk and especially during the civil war? >> she becomes a widow. she wore widows weave for the next 42 years until she died practically at the age of 88 and the house they purchased and fixed up for retirement was a shrine for her husband.
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she was reclusive, only went to church,but received people. during the civil war, she did not take sides. the mayor came to her and said the union is coming into the city, what should i tell the union general and she said, you may tell him i am at home so he came to call and the confederates and the union troops respected her. she did not take sides. she was completely neutral and she isolated herself into that period prior to the civil war. people put their artifacts in storage at polk place to preserve them but she just went right on through and she earned a great deal of respect for that. >> from both sides? >> from both sides. >> you have any more comments to
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add to this period? >> no, only that the contrast of course would be with president tyler who becomes a member of the confederate government having once taken an oath to support the constitution of the united states so in that sense the contrast i think with sarah polk was revealing. >> jenny standard weber on facebook who apparently portrays her as a docent in canton, ohio. mrs. polk lived more than 40 years as a widow. did she continue to be involved in politics after the president died? >> no, she did not. she would speak about her husband's time. any honors that were sent to her, she accepted on behalf of his memory. she was conversant with what was going on but not an active political player. >> we have one more video from the polk era. let's watch. >> james k. polk was a promised one-term president. as such, after four years, james and sarah polk were going to
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retire and while they were in washington still in the white house, as they were outfitting the white house as part of that restoration, they took the opportunity to purchase things for polk place, that home in nashville they were going to retire into. they purchased all of the furnishings for polk place through alexander stewart's shop in new york city and they picked some of the finest american furniture made at the time. they are rose wood framed with red velvet so we have gentlemen's chairs and sofas. the side chairs, they had 33 of them. we have 18 remaining of the original set so they would ring the room with little chairs so they would have guests and bring them into the room. we have interiors of what it looked like probably taken around the time of her death in 1891 and the house is still filled with objects they collected throughout their political lives together. unfortunately for james k. polk, he died three months after leaving the white house and sarah began a 42-year widowhood. every new year's day she opened
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polk place and held a levy for the state legislature as a body. polk place became something of a shrine to her husband and she would invite anyone who wanted to to come for a visit and see the objects they collected throughout their long and illustrious political career. >> patricia lynn scott on facebook writes, "when i visited nashville, i was amazed at the plaques that recognized the homes and office of polk that were razed. why would they allow those buildings to be torn down?" >> progress. i worked in historic preservation over 40 years. if we didn't need to preserve history, i wouldn't be in the field. the polk home was torn down in nashville and the great niece kept the artifacts together until they could find a home and that's what the museum in columbia is but montpelier, the madison's home, in private hands
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for years and really not saved until the 1980's. these things go on and on all the time. the homes of the presidents are deemed to be among the most important but in some cases you have multiple homes that one president lived in. >> as we say goodbye to dolley madison's influence, sheldon cooper -- we can't do a program without dolley in it. sheldon cooper asked, did sarah polk provide guidance to future first ladies? >> yes, 50 years after she was alive, you see, until the early 1990's, dolley died in 1849. so sarah was the embodiment of the elegant proper first lady after dolley died and the respect passed down with her, yes.
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>> so building on that, the question is, what is sarah polk's legacy? >> i'll let her answer this since she's written a great deal on sarah. >> i think that james k. polk probably might not have been able to achieve his ambitious one-term agenda without her help. she certainly kept the white house running because he literally worked himself to death and she handled his legacy well after his unfortunate early death. we have most of the legacy is his, first postage stamp, permanent treasury department, almost doubling the size of the united states. and many things to be thankful for. the first ladies themselves are not so much innovators as they are sometimes they embrace those aspects of the american character that the public needs and i think she did it very, very well.
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>> the election of 1848 brought the taylors into the white house and as we continue our program tonight, we'll learn more about zachary taylor and more importantly for our first ladies series tonight, his wife, margaret peggy taylor but it is a brief stay in the white house so it will be about 10 minutes' worth of exploration here. tell us the -- set the stage for the 1848 election. >> polk is leaving office. he chose to be a one-term president, which probably was good because he probably would not have gotten the nomination again and probably would have been defeated. he was not very well liked when he left office. it is true that he started and a war was successfully won but when he was over, he didn't want to have peace. he fired his envoy to mexico and his envoy to mexico negotiated a peace treaty after he had been
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fired and sent it back to washington and polk was forced to bring a treaty to congress that he did not actually want to sign or have congress ratify but he was forced to do it. during the war, he became very jealous of the very, very successful general zachary taylor and so he demoted taylor and put general winfield scott over him and then he got jealous of scott because scott was getting all the headlines. so when the war ended, polk is leaving, and taylor is the great hero of the war. taylor had never voted in an election. taylor had never done anything political. he had been a career military officer for his entire life. his wife, margaret smith taylor, peggy taylor, as she's known, had traveled with her husband to some of the most remote military bases in the country. she had been a military wife, the wife of a man who started as a lieutenant and ended up as a major general and taylor's politics were almost unknown
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other than that he said over and over again, he wanted henry clay. henry clay, of course, had lost to polk, and henry clay believed it was his time to win, 1848 was going to be a wig year, clay's party is the wig party. clay thinks he will win and out of nowhere taylor gets the nomination and clay is absolutely devastated that he doesn't get to be nominated and in addition to taylor getting the nomination, a completely obscure almost unheard of person, millard fillmore, who, when nominated, is the most obscure person ever to be nominated for president at the time, gets the vice presidential nomination so you have this axis of taylor, a louisiana sugar planter, running with fillmore,
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the comptroller of the state of new york. for me there's a personal thing which i have to say, i currently teach at albany law school where fillmore was living and next year i will be a visitor at l.s.u., a law school in louisiana, so i'm the embodiment of the albany-baton rouge accent, as well. >> i'd like to say, let's don't discount that the mexican war brought us all of the western southwest -- california, new mexico, et cetera. he was the commander-in-chief and he acted like it and if it upset winfield scott who had quite a temper, and zachary taylor, so be it, but as it turned out, that's what history has recorded. we greatly expanded the united states during that time and we got those properties for very, very little. in terms of the history of real estate, polk rates high.
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>> on to zachary taylor. >> only if you think that going to war with a country to steal half their country is an appropriate and legitimate thing to do and significant numbers of americans believed that the mexican war was purely a land grab and a war of aggression and many americans, including john c. calhoun, a great defender of slavery, believed the mexican war was a huge mistake because calhoun predicted correctly that once you had the mexican war, you would open up again the question of slavery in the territories and that would cause a catastrophe, which it does. >> zachary taylor, old rough and ready. he was the last southerner elected for 64 years until wilson and the last president to hold slaves while in office in the white house but his partner in all of this was margaret, known as peggy taylor. what do we know about her? >> she was not particularly keen on being first lady.
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she had gone around to all of his postings with him. they had innumerable children. it's interesting that their daughter, knox, married the young jefferson davis, who fought with taylor in mexico and unfortunately their daughter died after only three months of marriage but later when they were in the white house the taylors became quite close with jefferson davis and his second wife, varina, and varina was close to the first lady. the first lady let her daughter do a lot of the entertaining and it was such a brief amount of time, really, that they were in office, that -- what else? >> he was inaugurated in march of 1849, elected in 1848 but didn't take office until march of 1849 and taylor dies in july
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of 1850 so there's essentially a 15-month period when they were in the white house and she doesn't want to be there. >> she retreats to the upstairs of the white house. >> she basically retreats to the upstairs of the white house. oddly enough, like her predecessor, she came from a political family. one of her aunts was married to a three-term governor of maryland. one of her cousins was married to senator reverty johnson of maryland. she came from a very, very wealthy family of maryland planters although she grew up most of her early years in the washington, d.c. and northern virginia area. among other things, one of her playmates was nellie custis who was the granddaughter of martha washington. so this is somebody who's been
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around politics, as well, but the opposite of sarah polk. she doesn't want to be involved in politics. she didn't want her husband to run for president. >> here's a snapshot, according to the census of america, in 1850, as this president is serving. the population was by that point 23 million and there were now 30 states in the united states, that's almost 36% growth since the 1840 census. slaves in the united states numbered three million or 13.8% of the population and the largest cities in the country in 1850 were new york city, baltimore and boston. washington, d.c., we've learned throughout the series, as a capital city, traded on gossip and the gossip about peggy taylor was much like rachel jackson, that she was a pipe smoker and didn't bring style and substance, very different than what paul described. what's the truth about her? >> i don't think -- >> she didn't smoke a pipe. let's start with that. the pipe smoking is utter nonsense and in fact all of the
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people close to her say she was in fact allergic to smoke and nobody smoked around her so the problem is she is a military wife who's traveled from base to base. she's gone -- she lived in some style even on those bases because the taylors were very wealthy, they had lots of slaves, they had a plantation in louisiana. some of the slaves would travel with them to bases but she was not a high society woman. she was not a woman who wanted to be around a crowd and this was not a world that she felt at all comfortable with and i'm sure when she got to washington and dealt with the gossip and the parties, she simply felt that this is not where she was comfortable and she didn't know how to compete and she didn't know how to operate and so she retreated to the second story of the white house and let her daughter do most of the
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entertaining. >> and the gossip continued because she was an enigma. >> and she wasn't there to defend herself from the gossip. >> how did zachary taylor die? >> he had cholera, didn't he? >> no. zachary taylor went to a july 4 parade and watched the parade on a hot july 4 day. zachary taylor was a teetotaler and he either spent the day eating cherries and milk or cucumbers and milk, depend on who you ask, and if one imagines what a bowl of milk would look like after a hot july day in washington, d.c. without ice to keep it cold, he got some kind of intestinal disease and he was a very tough man. d.c., without ice -- he got some kind of intestinal disease and he was a very tough man. he had survived winters in michigan and minnesota.he had survived florida. he had survived the deserts of mexico. he was rough and ready. the one thing he could not survive was mid-19th century
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medicine, so when he got sick he was bled and they did all sorts of other things, including giving him mercury which would have killed him if they gave him and he may have died from an intestinal virus. he may have died from a bacterial infection. he may have died because the doctors killed him. what we do know is that he died very suddenly.to the great shock of the nation. perhaps taylor was the last president who could have managed to somehow change the civil he was a southern slaveholder who did not believe in spreading slavery to the west. he thought all the territories taken from mexico ought to be free. he was a man who was willing to stare down and if necessary, lead an army to suppress
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southern anti-nationalism, the suggestion of secession. at one point, but texans were planning to march into santa fay, and taylor sends troops. one can imagine that if they did this again, he would have said i would that be happy to personally lead the army to austin and personally hang the the wayr of texas. jackson said he would personally hang the governor of south carolina. which in part ended the nullification crisis in the 1830's. >> a couple of quick questions. i read that mrs. taylor was a devout episcopalian and she promised god to give up the pleasures of society if her husband returned safely from this is true, did this have an impact on her role as first lady? >> i have read that as well. in several different publications. i don't think she realized that
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when her husband came back from the war, she was going to end up being first lady. -- bethany johnson went to bethany johnson wrote on twitter. did she play any instruments that we know of, and how old was she when she died? >> she was born in 1788, so that makes her about 65. >> she died by many accounts she was soken heart. shocked. we should tell the story of zachary taylor. she was convinced that zachary taylor was poisoned. >> that is right. >> that was a story that stayed with that retailer for many-- that's stayed with zachary taylor for many years. in our lifetime, zachary taylor's body was exhumed. no poison. >> when fillmore becomes president, he gets letters from people saying that taylor was the conspiracy theory.
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americans love conspiracy theories, and this was a conspiracy theory. >> we are probably not alone in that. let's listen to sean in columbus, ohio. you are on the air. >> i was wondering if it is true that when margaret taylor prayed for her husband's defeat for the presidency, she was that much against it. when she an invalid in the white house because of difficulties of having so many children? >> i don't know that she actually prayed for his defeat. he was the first to admit that she was not very happy with his victory. >> many of these stories are written well after the fact. as a historian, we have to question where is the source of these stories? if you hear the stories told in five different stories and it
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turns out it is the same story told over and over again. we don't know if it is true. there's a story that apparently he was on the steamboat when the movement was to make him the nominee and somebody asked him who he was going to vote for. taylor said i am not sure, and the man said i am voting for why won't he vote for taylor? he does not know he is talking to tyler. he said i would not vote for taylor because i personally know his wife does not want him to run for president. taylor was very unassuming and often did not appear to be who he is. there is a true story that when he was in mexico, he was sitting in front of a tent, not with his general's stars on, and a young officer came up to him and said, will you shine my boots?thinking he is just an enlisted man. taylor shines his boots. the next day the officer came to him as commanding general. >> this is the second time in history a president dies in
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office.there is a vice presidential succession. do we do a better job of it the second time around? it was a constitutional crisis the first time. >> quite frankly, they never fixed it until after the kennedy assassination.with the 27th amendment. >> we fix it this way. when harrison dies, the question is, does john tyler become president or does he remain vice presidents and acting president? that is something the constitution does not addressed. john quincy adams, who hated john tyler, used to refer to him as his accidentcy, rather than his excellency. by the time fillmore becomes president, there's no question the vice-president will be inaugurated and sworn in.
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fillmore graciously asked margaret taylor to stay on in the white house as long as she wishes. she moved out two days later. she had had enough. >> you told us earlier about the new york and baton rouge access. we will learn more about that from video. here is a bit of the millard fillmore home that you will see now on the videotape. >> we are in the most charming little home, small as it is, that belonged to millard and abigail fillmore. they did meet when they were both teachers. they both had this desire and love of reading. abigail was brought up in a family that had many books. her father was a baptist preacher, and he loved to read. so she was surrounded by books her whole lifetime. when she moved into this house with millard fillmore, she continues that. they had their own personal library, and she wanted to let
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young people learn extensively about the world as it was. this room that we are in is actually the focus of the entire house. history is made right here. she independently employed herself as a teacher. she tutored young students in the evening, mainly in the course of history. this would have been living room, but also serve as their kitchen. here in front of the fireplace, they would spend hours by the light of the fire. they would do their reading and writing, and abigail fillmore cooked in this very room. this was her kitchen. here we are in the fillmore bedroom. their original staircase had quite an angle to it. we do believe there was a wooden ladder at the time when they lived here. as a young wife and mother, dressed in a long skirt, and with a toddler on her hip, she
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ascended that ladder into the bedroom. in this room have the fillmore bed and dresser. we know that abigail was a wonderful seamstress. we do have her quilts here, a very colorful quilt called the tumbling blocks pattern. this was a very busy place. east aurora was a vibrant community. she would have had many people come in to have tea. we can envision abigail having a very full life.her days were full. we do see her as a hospitable young woman, young life, young mother, a teacher. >> that house is still available to visit if you are ever in east aurora, new york. the 13th president of the united states was the last whig this is picking up on
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something paul mentioned early. all came from modest means. all the presidents before brought personal wealth to the white house. this begins a series of presidents who are more or less middle-class. what is the impact of that on the institution? >> long-term, i think that what we see with the fillmores was something of a change that will follow through in the 20th thetury, looking forward. economy -- we are still prior to the civil war. that is going to be a giant hiatus, in terms of his mess. -- of business. who were the others that are not wealthy? >> there are four presidents before this, counting fillmore, who are not welcome.-- are not
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wealthy. the adamses are very middle class. john quincy adams is probably close to being wealthy at the time. martin van buren comes from a middle-class family. millard fillmore grows up in abject poverty as does andrew jackson. millard fillmore's family does not own their land. abigail fillmore, abigail powers grows up, her father dies when she is two. they don't have very much money. she becomes a schoolteacher. she is the first first lady to have worked outside the home. significantly, she not only worked outside the home before she was married, but after she is married for the first few years, she works as a schoolteacher.that is while millard is starting his law career. these are people who have experienced poverty and have not achieved anything other than middle-class status. after her death, millard married very well.
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>> paul has written a book on millard fillmore. here is his biography if your-- you are interested in reading more about our 13th president. it is still available where you shop for books. we have about 20 minutes to learn about the fillmore presidency and about abigail. she brings a sensibility to the role of first lady. how'd she approach the job at a -- how did she approach the job? >> what she is known for, her legacy, is that she created the first white house library. what her father left to our mother when he died when she was just a little girl was books. they kept those books and it became the core of her education, and obviously instilled in her and love of educating others. the congress appropriated $2,000 for the president to establish a white house library, but it was pretty much understood that she would be the one who worked on the library.
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she really preferred to read and engage in intellectual pursuits. but she did her duty. she helped her husband, and she had a bad ankle, as i recall.she was injured. >> she has an injury shortly before he runs for vice president and she cannot stand. she cannot go to receptions and stand, so she avoids things like that as much as possible and let her daughter do much of the role of the white house hostess. >> the introduction of the white house library became a controversy with congress. i read that she successfully lobbied key committee members to bring the library to the white house.what is the story there? >> she would go out to dinner parties talking with them.
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it was the standing that she could not do. but she obviously convinced them. here comes $2,000 to set up a >> a lot of library. money in those days. >> this was a lot of money. had to be for it the president to buy the books. the president was being president. apparently she did a very good job of selecting a broad category of volumes for the library. she was interested in music. wasn't she, paul? >> she was interested in music. they were also very interested in geography. they loved that.-- they buy maps and gazetteers. they are very interested in the world in that respect. she is the schoolmarm. the little film about the fillmore house, there was one slight error. they were not both teachers. millard fillmore was actually her student. she was 21 years old and she was teaching in a private academy, and millard fillmore had been apprenticed to a textile factory
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to learn how to run of making -- run cloth-making machinery. this was during the 1830's in the middle of the depression.the panic of the 1830's. the factory laid off everybody for a while and closed down. so fillmore used this term to go back to school, and fell in love with his teacher, and she fell in love with him.it is hard to tell from the pictures we see, but both of them were described as being very attractive people. queen victoria would later say that he was the most handsome man she had ever met. that might be an exaggeration. here you have these two young, handsome people, and miller fillmore is over 6 feet tall at a time when most men do not grow to be that tall. he must have been a striking figure. they glom onto each other and here a very long courtship.
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family ultimately does not want her to marry. they ultimately do not marry until about five or six years later. at first the court ship was by it letters.he moves to east aurora. >> i was just wondering, did mrs. fillmore -- what did she do after she got out of the white >> thanks for asking that. will come back to your question in just a little bit. darrell is in tuscaloosa, alabama. >> did the white house have plumbing, and if it did not, then did they get plumbing? things you showed earlier -- are they still in use today?
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>> we heard about gas lights and heating coming into the white house. what about plumbing? >> fillmore is credited with having the first bathtub in my-- in the white house, but it is not clear if it is true. this is the problem whenever you say what is the first in the white house. we do know they installed either the first bathtub or a new bath tub in the white house. >> do you know if religion played a big part in their life >> let me presidency? take that, because it is important to understand how it works. abigail is the daughter of a baptist minister and she is raised in a baptist community in rural upstate new york. they are raised in the middle of nowhere in central new york.in a very poor part of new york. she is a baptist. millard has various religious training growing up. but they were married by an episcopal priest, because in the town that abigail lives then, the most prestigious churches
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they thenopal church. moved to buffalo and become unitarians, because all of the smart people and successful people are becoming unitarians. in fact, religion for the fillmores reflects what i would call as their journey from poverty to middle-class status, to ultimately a secure position they change churches as they go up the social ladder. >> we are going to learn more about her love of books and her establishment of a white house library in this next video. >> when abigail came to the white house, she was appalled that there were no books. this bookshelf was part of the first white house library that they were able to get congress to give her money to start the first white house library, which still exists today.we know today
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that first ladies have causes. literacy and reading would have been abigail fillmore's cause. it was very important to her as thatcher.and she carried love and passion for books with her to the white house. abigail suffered from illness throughout her time as first lady. mary abigail would have been a hostess for many of the events. this punch bowl would have then one of many items use during entertaining at the white house. mary abigail followed in her mother's footsteps and was very educated herself. she spoke five languages.there are stories of her playing pn oh or on the harp for guests, congressman who would come to visit the white house. we have her piano in her music books that she would have played from, and we also have her heart, that was in the white-- arp that was in the white
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house. she literally entertained. >> the room in the white house was an oval room. you are seeing the picture today. it is called the yellow oval room. bookroom was filled with vases and musical instruments. it became something of a salon in washington. how did they use it? >> as a salon. >> it was not useful in their legislative roles? >> she participated in formal dinners downstairs. there was receiving, always. littlete house had very privacy. >> she had charles dickens come to the white house. kennedy,ead of jackie bringing life into the white house.
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washington irving came when dolly was there. she was interested in these more intellectual, literary pursuits. and with her bad ankle -- i do not think anyone understands what those receptions were like, when they threw open the white house for thousands of people. hours and hours of standing on your feet.>> the salon she created would seem like a very intimate waste to be able to bring key members of congress and others. intimate way to be able to bring key members of congress and others. was it a way to be at the inner sanctum as the president and advance her goals echo >> i-- advance her goals? >> i think there were few congressmen in those days that were interested in talking to a novelist or a cultural figure like that. she brought the woman known as the swedish nightingale.jenny lind came to sing. that would have been a celebrity.
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members of congress might have come to see the celebrity. i think that in a sense, there is a bifurcation here between abigail fillmore creating a cultural setting that the former schoolteacher really wants to do. as a mother, she is always a schoolteacher. she writes letters to her children at various times in their lives.they were separated from their children. correcting their spelling in these letters and giving them lists of spelling words to learn. she may also be always educating her husband, who is not quite as atll educated and she was. least for the early parts of their lives. >> what turns of titles and offers were in the first library in the white house? >> a lot of shakespeare. it was a mixture of the classics. probably lots of histories. >> and i know a lot of geography books. they were very interested in president,ntries.as
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fillmore sends commodore perry to japan, to open up japan. this is in part because fillmore has a personal interest in it things foreign and exotic. >> it is so important, but we have to talk about the major legislative peace, because zachary taylor died just as the compromise of 1850 was being debated. millard fillmore picks up the debate over that legislation.in as brief a way as possible, what is the significance of the compromise of 1850? what did millard fillmore do? >> it was introduced by henry clay, the disappointed guy who did not get to be president. the goal is to solve the nation's problems. as it emerges in congress, it is a series of separate bills, not one bill. among other things, it will organize the new mexico territory that includes arizona,
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the utah territory which includes nevada and utah and parts of colorado.and wyoming. it would admit california into the union as a free state. it also would prevent the sale, the open auction of slaves in washington, d.c., but it would also give millions of dollars to texas. it would subdivide a portion of the mexico and give today what-- new mexico, and give what is today west texas to texas, which previously no one believed or longed to texas. texas.nged to and most importantly, created the fugitive slave law of 1860. it is an outrageously unfair law in which alleged fugitive slaves are not even allowed to testify at hearings on their own behalf. if a free black is used in new york, the man cannot say no, you it createdrong person.
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draconian punishments for anyone who interfered. fillmore pushes the fugitive slave law, sit, almost-- signs it almost immediately after it is passed by congress, and very aggressively enforces it anywhere he can. >> how did the compromise of 1850 work into the timelines of abigail fillmore? do we know about her position on slavery and how it might have complemented or been different from her husband?>> i do not. >> what is odd about millard and abigail is that they come from a part of new york known as the burned over district. of is said that the fires revivalism burned over so often, it was the most antislavery part of the united states. it was the center of the anti- slavery movement.just south of where fillmore is growing up, mostam seward, one of the
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anti-slavery senators in the senate, is starting his political career. just down the road, frederick douglass will live in rochester, with all this anti- slavery activity going on, neither of the fillmore's ever lift a finger to fight slavery. they never show any hostility to slavery at all, and they showed no sympathy whatsoever to free blacks. it is really quite shocking that they are completely clueless about this. when he is running for a vice- president, and accused him of helping runaway slaves escape. in a letter that is so shocking i would not say it on air, he says incredibly horrible things about black people, like why would i ever lived my finger to >> turning back to her love of books -- did the love of books cause any trend in national education or in the library expansion? >> to my knowledge, no. but you have to look for the
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longm. they did not have the instantaneous communication. her books were not going to set off a trend for banks like modern communications do. what we are beginning to see as we go into the second half of the 19th century is normal work for middle-class women, teaching and so on and so forth. obviously they would be aware that they had a first lady who was a teacher, an honorable profession, and having that library certainly was known. >> i was just wondering how many children did the fillmores half? >> two. >> and one of them served as the official hostess in the white house. time is short, let's hear from ben next, watching in los angeles.
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>> what was his foreign relations policy like back then? >> in part it was to enhance trade with europe and other countries, so rescinds perry to -- so he sends perry to japan. at the time, japan was completely closed to the outside world. sends some united states naval vessels, and says, we are here. you are going to trade with us whether you like it or not. the japanese refer to it as the dark ships. i saw an exhibit in japan of japanese cartoons in which perry is portrayed as a monster. that thought this was horrible. he also negotiated treaty with switzerland to allow trade on equal terms for a swiss and american citizens, but the treaty has a clause that says this can only happen if people in america would be eligible to
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own land or have businesses in switzerland. many swiss cantons did not allow jews to own land. when fillmore was told about this, he said it should not really be a problem. he does not seem to be interested in issues that would involve minorities. he later becomes a know-nothing. an anti-catholic activists. -- activist. >> our last question. >> i just have some comments. thank you for this series on the sirst ladies.the fillmore is met charles dickens in washington in 1842. they did not host him at the white house. also, they did entertain washington irving and william
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make peace thackeray. "avatar reportedly is biased millard not to sign the fugitive slave law. one of her best friends and buffalo was the most prominent abolitionist there, george washington johnson. >> tell us about abigail fillmore's legacy.>> books. learning. literacy. >> and the fact that she might have influenced literacy by being a working woman.>> careers for women. >> sadly, she dies very shortly after, and her daughter dies two years later. i can only say that there is no documentary evidence whatsoever that she advised fillmore not to this the fugitive slave law. is again the apocryphal things that people like to throw out there, because they want to enhance reputations, without any evidence whatsoever. >> abigail fillmore died in the
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famous willard hotel, which continues to play a role in presidential history. just very shortly after the inauguration of their successor, franklin pierce. we got a lot of tweets about the barbara bush connection, telling us her name was actually pierce. we will try to answer that question for sure next week when we deal with the pierce administration. thanks to both of our guests for theg here.and thanks to white house association for their continuing help throughout this series. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
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>> wednesday, we continue our encore of the first season of and joined us for season two, september 9 all stop a look at the life of edith roosevelt. our website has more about the first ladies, including a special section, welcome to the white house, produced by the white house historical association, which chronicles life in the executive mansion under the tenure of each of the first ladies. and we are offering a special edition of the book "first ladies of the united states of america, presenting a biography and portrait of each first for." it is now available
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discounted shipping. affairsing public events from washington directly to you, putting you in the room at congressional hearings, white house events, briefings, and conferences, and offering complete coverage of the u.s. house, all as a public service of private industry. span, created by the cable tv industry 35 years ago, and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. now, you can watch us in hd. >> the house financial services committee on housing finance. then, a new series looking at the justice system. ladies, with pulp and fillmore. outlinedrling
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legislation that would change housing finance by eliminating fannie mae and freddie mac. the bipartisan policy center housing commission hosted this event from the george w. bush presidential center in dallas. this is 40 minutes. >> thank you, mr. secretary, for the kind introduction. i do not know if you can see me. this is a rather large podium. of what i me frequently tell my washington colleagues. everything is bigger in texas but me. if you cannot see me, at least you can hear me. anyway, i was delighted to accept the invitation to speak for the bipartisan policy center , for a couple of reasons. number one, because of the outstanding work you have done in the housing arena.
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number two, i live about three miles from here, so it took me about seven minutes to get here. as a fairly new chairman of a standing committee of the congress, truth be known, i have a number of speaking invitations that come my way. a lot of press that is interested in speaking to me. but i assure you i do not have to work to remain humble. because i have a lot of speaking invitations, i accept a number of them. the home i have about three miles from here -- about two months ago, i was working on one of those speeches after dinner, and my wife, who helped keep me humble, comes into my study and says, in washington you may be chairman, but in dallas, you are the dishwasher, and they are not getting any cleaner. i took the subtle hint. i dropped the speech.
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i went into the kitchen and began to work on the dishes. a few minutes later, the phone rang. she picked it up. she comes into the kitchen and says, ok. "wall street journal" on the phone. i wonder how they got my home number, but i guess i would rather talk about quantitative easing them washed the dishes. i picked up the phone. on the other end of the phone, i .95 a did you know for $29 9 month, you too can -- [applause] [laughter] that will indeed keep you humble. something else that will keep you humble is trying to reform the housing finance system. it is something i believe is vital to every homeowner, current and would-be, every
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taxpayer, and the future of our economy. if you did not understand that, you likely would not be in this room today. so i want to thank the bipartisan center for the work it has done on housing reform. it is very important work. i especially want to recognize the outstanding leadership and service of people like secretary martinez, and secretary cisneros, the latter secretary being a fellow texas aggie. him, as a temporary resident in san antonio in the early 1980's, my former mayor as well. i would like to thank both you gentlemen for continuing in this facet of public service. and i thank you for the solutions you promote for our housing challenges. i also want to thank the center for the work they do in
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promoting a respectful and constructive dialogue on what is typically a fairly contentious issue. that in washington it occasionally sheds a lot more heat than light. in -- i hope that today we have a little more light, and am pleased to be part of that dialogue today. you may know i have focused a portion of my public service career on the issue of housing. believe, thatyou homeownership is an especially cherished american tradition. it is a tradition i think we all believe is more meaningful than fences,ed lots, picket or granite countertops. homeownership is indeed a quality that come by -- that can bind families together, build financial security, and strengthen our communities. but as cherished an institution as it may be, homeownership does not, in and of itself,
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constitute the american dream, and it never has. i think most of us believe the american dream is something far more profound. quite simply, the right to use our god-given talents, to control our own destinies to the end, that our children might have even greater opportunities, greater abundance, and greater freedoms than we have ever enjoyed. it is this understanding of the american dream that serves as my personal compass in this debate. any compass tose help chart a path for the future, we must have a thorough understanding of where we have been and where we unfortunately find ourselves today. from my work on the congressional oversight program for the tarp from ram, it became clear that the great tragedy of the financial crisis was not that washington failed to prevent the crisis, but that washington helped lead us into it. we were led into it based upon a
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single good intention -- namely that every american family should own a home. do nottentions necessarily lead to good public policy. washington helped lead us into this crisis in three principal ways. federal policies were designed to expand homeownership in an fashion, encouraging lending to people who bought homes they could not afford to keep. sadly, a federal government which lives beyond its means in turn encouraged american families to do likewise. second, washington promoted moral hazard type protecting fannie mae and freddie mac, which privatized their profits and socialized their losses. a highly accommodative monetary policy dramatically lowered interest rates, kept them low, and inflated the housing bubble. i hope that history is not currently repeating itself. -- sets that the stage
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the stage by keeping lending conditions too low, too long. the fed began lowering interest rates in early 2001 to cushion the economic fallout. basis,nflation-adjusted or a real basis, the fed dropped interest rates from four percent 1.5% in earlytwo - 2003. that unleashed a wave of cheap credit on a housing market that was already experiencing a boom cycle. the federal government has for decades attempted to expand homeownership without direct taxpayer spending -- in other words, without annual congressional approval. i believe, and i know there are those who disagree, that one of the more damaging initiatives has been the community reinvestment act, which is clearly undertaken with good intentions, but which i believe is antiquated and in need of
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repeal. they believe that only a fraction of subprime mortgage problems were related. small inthey might be volume, cra loan mandates remain large and president. lendingerently required institutions to abandon traditional underwriting standards to comply with this government mandate. the cra implicitly put the government's good housekeeping seal of approval on low-quality loans. mac,e mae and freddie private companies awarded monopoly powers by congress in exchange for meeting certain affordable housing goals. we all know they exploited those charters to borrow at discounted rates, and ultimately dominated our secondary mortgage market. they wildly inflated their balance sheets, and personally byiched their executives implicit and explicit government
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backing. and did i mention the cooked books that allowed politically connected executives to make off like bandits with what their regulator described as ill- gotten bonuses in the hundreds of millions of dollars? given their prominence in the market, investors and underwriters came to believe that if fannie and freddie touched a loan, it was secure and sanctioned by the government. more than 70% of subprime mortgages that helped lead to the crisis were backed by fannie, freddie, fha, and other taxpayer-backed programs. if you have to put your finger on the root cause of the crisis, this is it. despite the inherent dangers in such transactions, congressional supporters kept encouraging them to roll the dice a little bit more. did, and the result is the worst financial crisis since the great depression. consequence of these policies was that the
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average american family watched health -- watched helplessly as their net worth declined by almost $50,000, wiping out almost two decades of financial progress. this is where we have been. five years later, where do we find ourselves today? are single there moms throughout our economy who are having to work even harder than before, simply to put food on the table and a roof over their family's heads. that is unconscionable. taxpayers have been forced to pay for bailouts, nearly $200 billion. hook for remain on the more than 5 trillion in mortgage guarantees, roughly 1/3 the size of our economy. the government has a virtual monopoly on the housing finance system. that is unwise. ,ue to the dodd frank act
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washington elites decide who can qualify for a mortgage, putting homeownership out of reach of credit worthy american families. that is unfair. the american people deserve a path forward to a housing system that is sustainable, fair, and preserves the american dream. they deserve a system that protects current and future homeowners, so that every american who works hard and plays by the rules can have opportunities and choices to buy homes they can't afford to keep. they deserve a system that protects hard-working taxpayers, so they never again have to bail out corrupted financial institutions like fannie mae and freddie mac. they deserve a system that breaks the destructive room-bust housing cycles that have hurt so many working families and brought our economy to its knees. the house financial services committee recently approved the
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path act, whose acronym stands for protecting american taxpayers and homeowners. i believe the path act is the path forward. it is the principal work of scott garrett of new jersey, with co-authors from texas and west virginia. all for their leadership in bringing this landmark legislation to our committee. at its core, the housing market is not on the mentally different from the market for any other asset. it is not immune to supply and reward.or risk and it principally relies on private capital and market discipline. goals.udes fundamental the role of government is clearly defined and limited. official barriers to private capital are removed to attract investment and encourage innovation.
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third, market participants are given clear, transparent, and enforceable rules for transactions. lastly, consumers are afforded informed choices in determining which mortgage products suit their needs. it ends the costly fannie and freddie bailout will stop --. it increases mortgage competition, enhances transparency, and maximizes consumer choice. it breaks down barriers for investment capital. step inieve the first creating a sustainable housing financial system is to and the costly bailout of fannie and freddie, and permanently move away from a system where the fate of our economy depends on their success or failure. the bailout ends and gradually winds down both failed companies over five to seven years.
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much of this debate has centered around the so-called need to these companies in our system. isshould recognize the u.s. practically alone in the modern industrialized world in having government-sponsored enterprises directly guarantee mortgage securities. we are practically alone in our level of direct government subsidy and intervention in housing markets. we were also practically alone in the world in the level of turmoil in our housing markets, as measured by foreclosures and delinquencies. i believe there is a direct cause there. by almost any measure, they have not repelled our nation to housing finance nirvana. when we look at spreads between mortgage interest rates and sovereign debt, the u.s. can typically be found near the
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middle or bottom of the pack. there is one category where the u.s. has clearly led -- foreclosure rates. only in america can you find a government that subsidizes housing more, so that we, the people, can get less. we do not have to look overseas to see a functioning housing market without government- sponsored enterprises. have a market that has successfully operated without them. the jumbo market was approximately 20% of our housing market. liquidity,apital, competition, consumer choice, and innovation, right here in america. all of that was delivered for , ant 25 aces points interest differential. a modest amount to avoid taxpayer bailouts and economic'.
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is important that whatever modest interest rate benefit they delivered to home buyers, to some extent, it was clearly offset by the inflation of housing principal for the same home buyers. it is not self-evident that the homebuyer was better off. they served as loan aggregators for smaller lenders, by purchasing loans through their cash window. they provided a conduit for smaller originators to access mortgage investors. these are functions worth preserving in some form throughout the system. in a newact ushers system of housing finance that separates out these functions, providing clear and transparent disclosure of mortgage data,
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giving certainty to contracts and their enforceability, utilizing the knowledge and networks of the federal home loan mortgage system, and issuance that is decoupled from the holding of long-term mortgage risk. transition,smooth the path act would make several reforms to fannie and freddie. theirinclude repealing misguided washington-created affordable housing goals that helped precipitate the crisis, treating or folios of mortgage backed securities, and eliminating competitive advantages over the private sector. it also reforms the fha. you cannot have true housing reform without fha reform. otherwise, you are squeezing the balloon on one side to have it bowled out on another. fha isably, today, the
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not only broke. it is flat out broke. there has been severe mission creep. i would argue the phenomena are directly related. today, fha insures mortgages for millionaires. it is a mansion in most of the fifth congressional district of texas, and far beyond the reach of those truly earning low incomes. the government privileges give advantages that muscle out private investment. fha controls 57% of the mortgage insurance market. it has gained advantage over competitors by using many practices employed by subprime lenders, including cheap upfront ricing, and encouraging the purchase of increasingly pricey homes. many would argue fha has more in thann with countrywide
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with the fha of years ago. the path act returns them to the traditional mission of helping famies it helps ensure solvency. assured that in times of serious economic downturns, the fha will be able to ensure loans to any borrower. this means the path act would preserve the existing countercyclical role in mortgage lending, which enables the fha to serve as a backstop to keep mortgage credit flowing, promote stability in the housing market, and assure middle income families can still buy homes. a new but old for method for banks to finance mortgage lending, by creating a regulatory framework for covered bond financing. covered bonds have been
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successfully used in europe for more than 200 years. pathway toa third mortgage financing beyond traditional portfolio lending and securitization. when it comes to housing finance, many in washington fight the new and defend the old failed status quo that gave us a government-run monopoly, taxpayer bailouts, economic crisis, and delivered only mediocre homeownership rates. detractors of the act have claimed it will eliminate the 30 year fixed-rate mortgage. perhaps is the biggest myth about the path act. 213 specifically states that the fha shall provide, among other mortgage insurance products, for the availability of a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage. the legislation does not say that fha can provide, may provide, or should provide.
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instead, shall provide. of the act would be the first time the fha has ever been specifically required to offer a fixed-rate 30 year insurance product. some people have stated that the very existence of the 30 year fixed rate mortgage is due to the fha. so, the path act goes to great lengths to strengthen it for future generations by granting it meaningful autonomy helping make it solvent, and giving it more flexibility to manage its oaks. 30 year fixed-rate mortgages existed before the financial crisis without a government guarantee, and they are being made today without a government guarantee. as the washington post recently editorialized, opponents will describe -- will decry a market
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of liquidity. rate loansar fixed- already exist without government help. post,as the washington not the national review. home buyers should have the opportunity to acquire a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage. it is important to many americans. but washington should not steer people into it. ouread, ensure that citizens have informed choices about an array of mortgage products that can meet their needs. housing of the federal finance agency recently stated, one thing i would say about 30 year mortgages -- it is not necessarily the best mortgage product for a homebuyer, especially a first-time home buyer. first-time home buyers in this country tend to own their first home for four years or five years. it may not be the best for their circumstances, that kind of timeline.
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there may be a different mortgage product at which they can build equity at a aster rate. even president obama has acknowledged that shorter duration loans hold advantages whymany borrowers, which is he proposed an expanded loan finance program, where borrowers must agree to refinance into a loan with no more than a 20 year term. many americans who seek to own a home find themselves selling a property before they build leavingn the property, their situation akin to being a renter who pays thousands in closing costs and then has to pay the property taxes. there is no one-size-fits-all mortgage in america. act claim thate sufficient private sector capital does not exist to fill it post government-guaranteed board.
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that begs several questions. 2.5 timesuity markets the size of our mortgage market, and yet they exist without any guarantee, government or otherwise? and just how much capital is sufficient for housing finance? i do not know the answer to the question, and i suspect no one in the audience does either. i do know that whatever the number is, it must be sustainable. that is the key concept. i would also remind us all. has alternative uses. every dollar artificially sent to mortgage finance can no longer be used to promote math tutors for our children, or promote our manufacturing sector to give them jobs once they graduate. another important factor to remember about financing the u.s. smart -- u.s. mortgage market -- pension and retirement
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funds, mutual funds, and real estate investment trusts held almost 50% of the market share for home mortgages and mortgage- backed securities by 2010. the u.s. residential market is clearly an ideal investment opportunity, given their need for long-term investments. explained,affe has winding down the gse should be accomplished without any major stress in the flow of funds for u.s. mortgages. if we look abroad, we see other modernized industrial nations that have avoided our disastrous experience. private capital is ready, willing, and able to fund the mortgage market. that itfalse attack is will be harder for middle income families to buy homes.
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that distinction belongs to the dodd frank act, our current law. mark zandi of moody analytics recently testified that a single dodd frank rule currently in the pipeline could increase mortgage to 4%.t rates 1% . .
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good >> but in the fifth congressional district of texas i think it's known as common sense. i spent a lot of time listening to my constituent and their common sense. one wrote why those who did the responsible thing have to pay the freight for those who bought more expensive homes they couldn't afford? i heard from steve in jacksonville, texas. if it were a mom and pop
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business, they would have been shut down for poor business practices and even jailed. and then there's scott from mesquite right next door to texas who wrote, what the american people need are not more subsidies just give us the opportunity to buy a home people can afford to keep so we can live and raise our tppl famil r families. people outside of washington get it. they understand the system is too often unfair and unaccountable and unsustainable. clearly i know there are other voices in this debate and i could not be more tkpwrat identified that last week the president finally added his voice to this important debate. and although i heard few specifics, i welcome him to the debate and i am encouraged by this and i recognize that he is indispensable to a solution. other important voices in this
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debate besides your own are those of senator corker of tennessee and senator warner of virginia and i commend them for their leadership. someone who has worked for years and years on the complicated and contentious issue of houzing reform i salute no one who will roll up their sleeves and produce not just rhetoric but an actual plan. and even today more and more voices are being heard in this debate and this is encouraging and good. i stand ready to listen to all and to negotiate in good faith with all. and i do this with an open mind but i do not do it with an empty mind. thus, i remain skeptical and fearful in an approach that does not end in a permanent guarantee in the secondary mortgage moment. if at the end of the day tax payers are still on the hook, then i fear all you have done is put fanny and freddy in the federal witness protection program given them cosmetic
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surgery and a new identity and unleashed them on an unsuspecting public. when government provides guarantees it means investeders will be protected against loss. they won't be overly concerned about the quality of the mortgages, either way they'll get paid and not unlike fanny and freddy it would perpetuate a system where wall street investors off load their risk on main street taxpayers. such a system i fear can guarantee that america will face another round of boom, bust and bailout. ideas to set up new federal bureaucracies that would improve the housing system, i fear the powerful bureaucrats picking winners and losers and that system the taxpayer always comes out the loser. i remain skeptical of ideas to create an insurance fund. if there's one thing we've
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learned about government and insurance fund, it's that the government either cannot or will not properly price for risk. you name it, whether it's the national flood insurance program which is underwater, pun intended, the pension benefit guarantee program or even the deposit insurance fund from time to time, the government has flat gotten it wrong leaving tax payers on the hook. i'll conclude with these last few thoughts. it's our nation charts a path forward on housing reform, some will say our public policy choices for working american families are between house and no house. i i did sdisagree. to have a sustainable policy housing to have people buy homes they can keep the choice is between house and more house. well our generation perpetuate a system that demands more house today only to ensure our
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children are confined to less house tomorrow. today's system of boom, bust and bailout is retarding economic growth and helping fuel what all acknowledge is an unsustainable level of national debt. our spending driven debt crisis is the greatest threat facing our nation today. we are borrowing $0.31 on the dollar much of it from china and sending the bill to our children. children born today are burdened with the debt of more than $52,000 they had nothing to do with creating. our national debt stands at roughly $145,000 per household. for a lot of people i represent in the fifth congressional districts of texas that's more than they'll ever amass in savings in their entire life times. david cody, one of the president's own appointees and also the ceo of honey well said
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the seeds are already planted and the debt accumulated will sink us. the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said the single biggest threat is our debt. i would also offer the single biggest threat to our national housing aspirations too is our debt. if you ever attended one of our financial services committee hearings on capital hill and you haven't i hope you will, you will also see we run a continuous real time display of the national debt clock. the it serve as a constant and sobering reminder of the very serious and very dangerous threat that faces our nation. a threat that looms large over this debate and should loom large over every debate we engage in. and i would also say as we think about a housing program for
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working americans, we've got to remember that the best housing program at the end of the day is not a subsidy and guarantee and interest deduction or tax credit, it's a job, a job that leads to a rewarding career in a dynamic, growing economy is because there has never been a greater or more successful housing program ever deviced by the minds of mand kind than the american free enterprise system. this is what we should work to strengthen. we should also never forget at the dawn of america's history it was another crony run government-sponsored enterprise that needed a bailout namely the east india tea company that gave birth to a nation teaming with individuals who decided to take control of their own destinies. they risked their lives and fortunes to ensure their children would have something better in a phrase they risk it
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all for the american dream. that compass that should guide us all. today in the aftermath and the destruction caused by an uns unstainable financial system we find out selves in another moment in history. we have to make a choice, one that will shape the future of our nation and those who call america home. that's why this debate matters. when it come down to it it's not a debate about basis points or fix term loans, it's about freedom and opportunity and taking back control of your lives and your destinies, including many here today. to have those careers without the interference of big government. i hope we can all agree it's time for a new path. it's time for our generation to preserve for our children the american dream, including that most important dream of
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homeownership. i welcome your voice and i tkhraeupbg ythank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much for a very, very thoughtful remarks. i know we're running close to our time frame for lunch. so i'll throw a question at you and maybe a second one, but i think one of the things ever one in this room would love to know is what is your assessment of a time table by which that which we all share which is a desire to see this reform take place could happen? >> well, you didn't say they would be easy questions. the house majority leader is anxious to bring the path act to the floor. i have an open mind. we're speaking to many people now about some revisions and improvement that's could be made
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to that act before it goes to the floor and as i look in this audience i see a few of those people that we're talking about as we speak today. i do not have a close personal working relationship with senator harry read so i'm a little bit ignorant what the time table may be over there, but in my discussions with the senate banking chairman and ranking member, i am cautiously optimistic they, too, may move some legislation in the fall. i believe clearly as does the majority of the house financial services committee that the path act is the path forward, but the voters spoke in the last election and there is divided government and that's why god made conference committees and i wish to get the path act to a conference committee. >> let me say as someone who was in the senate for a better part of a term, i only saw 1 or 2
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conference committees the entire time i was there. that would be welcome news to those who study civics in our schools that we could come together. so i guess that would be the follow-up question. do you think we could end up in a conference situation? do you think the senate would agree to a conference and would the house leadership agree to a conference? >> well, to the extent i have anything to say about it, we would go to conference. you know, i've got a nine-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter who are learning about civics and i hope it's not relegated to miss these ideas of having an actual conference committee. so i would remain cautiously optimistic. again, i'm more encouraged now that the president has weighed in. i was very encouraged when the president's administration put out their housing paper. i became discouraged when it was allowed to gather dust for 2.5 years. had a number of conversations
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with secretary at the time and i was convinced of the sincerity of moving forward. but again, i'm encouraged that the president has weighed in. he seemingly wants to get something done and option one on his housing paper to a great extent encompassing much what the path act has. i listened to his comments carefully the other day and his wind down for fanny and freddy is what we see in the path act. having that said, i have frequently in my career found myself agreeing with 80% of what the president says, i just find myself disagreeing with 80% of what he does. >> so there's a difference between the two. one last question. [laughter] >> >> now that we come to that. so, there are a number of things in your path act proposal that deal he really with
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frankenstorm. is there a likelihood as a result of this process or a parallel process we might see some frankensto reform? >> i have great amount of respect for its author, chairman frank who is one of the -- one of the smarter people i've met. doesn't mean he's right or correct. i must admit i believe you'd have to ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. i fearsome have a more religious adherence to the brand than perhaps the named authors of the act have. personally, when you look at what the regulators have done with qm, what is contemplated by
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qrm, i think that it's unsustainable. i do not know how you could ultimately sustain a housing finance market if you cut the number of mortgages in half and double the price on the others which clearly could be the the outcome, perhaps the worst case scenario. i think there are a number of democrats on the house financial services committee, although they're committed to the fundamentals of frank are looking for room for improvement, so i've been in congress for a few years. if you're not an optimist it's not the job for you. so, i prefer to remain optimistic about these matters. >> thank you for your generosity with your time and i hope you enjoy the time in your home district which i know you prefer to washington. we look forward to having you back there for the important work ahead. thank you. [applause].
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>> coming up next here on c-span msnbc on his new series looking at the justice system. then first ladies influence and image features sara, margaret and abigail and discussion by lbgt rights and defensive marriage act and proposition eight. on our next journal we'll be live on location on the conference on tkroepbz and privacy issuesdrones and privacy issues so that plays into every
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decision that we make and so as we go into some of these new programs, we have to be honest with ourselves and know that as we develop these things, they have to be affordable and they've got to bring more than additional burdens and costs to us. that's kind of the view i'm taking as we're looking to develop our future stems and as we're laying out our modelingization plan. again, this is the an area that as i look back over my career of 35 years and i can remember back early on, we said unmanned systems, no way. they'll never be, no.
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we know it will bring better capabilities to our force and that is the future of our army. i mean, really we've got to incorporate this and it is going to be a big part of it. even in a fiscal environment that we know is challenging, we know that we've got to continue to look at and that will be where industry has to help us as we partner to move forward. >> i remember so well after the march was over, after dr. king delivered that speech, president kennedy invited us to the white house and he stood in the door of the oval office greeting each one of us. he was beaming so proudly and so glad everything went so well. we said, you did a good job. when it got to dr. king he said, and you had a dream. to mark the 50th anniversary the
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jfk library museum will comment. part of american history tv every weekend on c-span three. >> yesterday at the american bar association on minimum sentencing on low level non violent drug offenders their headline is quoting the last
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kwet was it's been five years for the administration. they haven't acted and he goes on to say this about it. he told the washington times instead of changing the law he's saying, we'll charge criminal defendants with lesser crimes to avoid mandatory minimums by doing it through executive order, he creates an order that a new president could do away with. >> that certainly is true. the policy is a different administration set particularly in areas where they have executive discretion and how they prioritize certain laws can change within different administrations. i don't think that means they don't set policies. and i heard him here today. he sounded a little off on some of the details and so i'll give him the benefits of the doubt he's not fully caught up. he mentioned it would have been nice if attorney general holder had worked with or mentioned some of the members of congress were working on this issue. but of course in yesterday's
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speech, the attorney general singled by name several members of congress including paul that would take a similar approach in trying not to always default to these mandatory minimums. secondly, i think that this is not coming out of no where or necessarily coming late if you talk to people in doj, what they emphasize is there an on going process and enhair it a policy that did seek through discretion to go to the max and include any material that can trigger those minimums and take as know some of the authority away from judges to do the sentencing. they first dialled back that memo a few years ago and yesterday's policy goes further and now says there will be an affirmative policy in these cases that eric holder identified, non violent, drug offenders who don't have a tie to a larger organization where people call king pins or drug
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lords so they're going further and that comes on the heels of a 2010 change by congress that worked with the administration to go on the crack cocaine sentence disparity which many know about and think is racist. that went down to 18-1 and passed through the congress. so i do think it fits with a broader stroke although not everyone knows those details >> why do you think it's necessary to reduce that mandatory minimum sentencing? >> i think when you look at the policies of what is widely known as the war on drugs what you see a shift from the way we approached criminal law for the majority of this country's history which was to reserve the really harsh serious sentences, the ones that take people away from their families and lives and their careers for 8, 10, 15 years. the types of things that risk turning people into repeat offenders and resist 56 and do so because they do something
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heinous which means we care a lot more about removing them from society than future rehabilitation. that was for the most serious crimes. many people think personal crimes or low level distribution, again, i'm not talking about king pins but people who are using drugs or maybe sharing some drugs. we don't think that's great behavior generally in the law but it's relatively new and unusual throughout the world to treat that behavior on par in sentencing with, say, rape or with say manslaughter, the taking of a human life. that's what has happened and that has grown as many people have reported. the prison population, not double or quadruple but grown it
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by 700 percent and created an epidemic that has tremendous disruption in our communitys and cities, disruptions that are disproportionately impact the the poor and minority. so that's the larger shift here. it is relatively recent if you take the long view and the one we're seeing draw more and more opposition not only from this justice department but from many libertarians and traditional conservatives who are saying enough is enough. >> what about that political shift. what do you make of it of democrats not fearing that they might look weak on crime? >> yeah, i mean, look, that is a huge political shift that opens up the conversation a different way. c-span viewers will remember the many elections that turned on law & order issues, particularly in the nixon era and when you
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had the combination of concern about the social order about discipline and order in our society and combined wit, the a lot of racial strife and tension and not only in the crime area but in the later desegregation cases and bussing in the north which became a national issue and one that really polarized people along ethnic lines. all those issues combined to create an environment where both parties are trying to outdo each other on who is tougher on crime. then and now a lot of americans outside of a highly politicized and excited environment has a natural understanding of a digs tinges between tough on, say, killers and murderers which i think people feel strongly about versus what are more personal crimes of personal behavior and if you are a libertarian or
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conservative we just heard grover talk about on c-span we have a constitutional system that restricts what the government should do as opposed to telling it. i think that's about right. no doubt about that the bill of rights is written to reserve a lot of rights and certain roles and rights to the state but to restrict the government and that includes the right to counsel and right to defense against the government's greatest power to detain and imprison you and certainly in the area of non violent offenses the notion that the government should be not only exercising that power but exercising it without the check to go back to the holder example, without the check of independent judges because so much of the war of drugs removed the discretion and put everyone in mandatory minimums has taken a real cost. >> front page of the wall street journal,he reigns police to
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stop and frisk and says it's unconstitutional. what's your reaction? >> i thought it was a great ruling, a very strong one coming in about 200 pages with a lot of detail including looking at 19 specific instances of this practice applied and finding 14 of them out of 14 were unconstitutional in some way and violating equal protection because they've been treating different people by race so differently. that's unconstitutional and secondly separate from any racial to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. what it has done in this city was take a decision by the supreme court that many people will remember called terry which allowed for certain extra on the street searching when there was the risk of a weapon or danger to the police. which makes sense. you can understand why the supreme court would say that an
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officer who feared for his safety or public safety might have a little more leeway to pat someone down for a gun as opposed to the higher search requirements that are triggered during a traditional search. i think a lot of people can see that. what ny pd did was take that special exception and make that the main way they searched people in new york 85% of them turned out to be racial minorities, and yet 89% of whom, according to the judge and the nypd data were know guilty of anything. in fact, 1.1% of his panics and 1% of african-americans stops under the program were found with weapons and 1.4 percent of white new yorkers found stopped at a less frequent rate. i think this opinion looks at that data and is like, wow,
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doesn't seem like you're looking for guns and you're terrible for looking at it and when you look at the racial disparities you're terrible at doing it and you're subjecting a humiliating procedure to people who are both of a certain class, look a certain way and who are ov overwhelming innocent. >> you are a lawyer and that you are a member of the new york bar. they go on to say this it is constitutional because of that supreme court case as well as the stops are also explicitly allowed when an officer reasonable suspects each person is about to commit a felony or misdemeanor defined in the penal law. >> they're mixing two issues
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here. number one, the debate over mr. this program was constitutional changed yesterday. yesterday when the wall street and i can disagree as members of the media or legal practitioners about this issue. today we speak in an environment where a federal court has ruleed it unconstitutional and there is a right to appeal which would go up to a second circuit so the case is by no means over. but today i think that members of the media opinion's constitution at varies. it's a policy debate people can continue to have. as long as it's illegal under the old form which it now is as a matter of practical reality, it doesn't matter so much what others think about the constitutionality because we have to respect the court's decision which is good law until it's changed by a higher court.
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the second issue you raise is a melding of the law here. what new york can do under sort of new york code comes in as guidelines and comes in as obviously a relevant thing. if they're otherwise acting constitutionally but nobody would suggest, not even the wall street journal that might like this practice for a variety of reasons no one would suggest that the new york guidelines trump the fourth and 14th amendment of the constitution which was the foundation of yesterday's ruling. and so that's where the debate goes for those who want to look at how you can have these police practices continue in ways that don't violate the constitution or people's rights. and by the way, i should mention just to be clear for the non lawyers watching, the polices' ability to conduct the frisk has not changed. the question is whether this policy was applying that search
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for guns in a way that was so clearly irracetional and unfair that the court said goes well beyond what they can do. when people say and this is important point and i'll end here, when people say stop and frisk is no more in new york, what they mean that program as applied with those numbers i mentioned. the individual ability of an officer under the supreme court precedent still says it. what they can no longer do is use that gun search as a trick or a loop hole to conduct hundreds of thousands of searches without having the reasonable suspicion necessary. >> we'll go to toni district heights, maryland. go ahead. >> good morning. first i want to say i'm a fan and i was pleased to see him join the group there. i want to make a quick point
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about perception that a lot of these laws that as you pointed out earlier, began over the last 30 years or so, i think the perception then was that they wouldn't effect the majority population of the country. it was only minorities that were on drugs or committing crimes or whatever. >> i think it's an important point. there is no doubt as we've seen
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throughout the history and including treatment today, our laws have struggled to deliver on the promise of total equality between all citizens that i think we've always had as an ambition and that we have come closer to but by no means fully achieved. you mentioned earlier the presumed guilty series we're doing for msnbc. what we're looking at is the way that laws that are written one way are applied, not necessarily with discriminatory intent in the mind of each individual person in the system, but when you take it in total, when you look at what the court sometimes calls an impact what we see is that they are racially unfair or racist in their results. one example people can create to the white population uses marijuana higher than the black
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population but they're not punished equally but punished quadruple the rate for the same what people consider low level type of personal drug offense. so the caller's point that when we look at the history of this and whether those harsh sentences were as a society, as a community which is why law and politics matter, whether they were debated and thought about as something we would call share together and have to dz about the right balance together or whether they were meated out n consciously or subconsciously that would only happen to few or others is important to think about. >> a file clerk on twitter wants to know, do you think the stop and frisk case will go to the supreme court? >> the short answer is i don't know. it's very hard to predict exactly how cases from a district level will go up and be reviewed. when it goes to the second and third court of appeals in
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new york, that is a chance for multiple judges to look at it and that is where this kind of case would stop. that is to say, even high profile appeals from the federal courts are generally not taken by the supreme court. now, why does the supreme court take this case or any other, sometimes when there's conflict between the circuit and something considered so important or such a national question that they wouldn't duck it. the health care legislation was ultimately disagreed on by several courts but that's the kind of case where people feel even if there wasn't a big split between different federal courts, the supreme court might have been likely to take that case just to resolve it. is it that kind of case, i don't know. >> he wants to been, do you believe the appeals court would uphold the ruling by the judge yesterday? what's your prediction? >> i don't know.
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this is the i don't know part of what washington journal, i guess. i don't know. i think that the second circuit -- this is what i can say. the second circuit is not necessarily a rubble stamp for government activity. there are circuits where research shows that the police or the executive branch wins at an extraordinarily high rate. there are circuits that are particularly sympathetic to claims of public safety or national security. the second circuit is not that kind of rubber stamp. what we can say this should be a fair and well litigated case, not one where we say because it's police they're almost certain to win. having that said, in the law, there is a lot of deference that says because the police risk their lives for us and because they're out there trying to keep us safe, that we give them a certain amount of deference much in the way that military
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judgments are given deference. if you're trying to say, trying to understand what's going to happen, what it was striking to see this judge rule so strongly. the judge could say i have concerns about this and see if you can fix them. she didn't have to have an independent monitor in there. she didn't have to issue a permanent injunction. faced with a ruling like that, that part is striking and the second circuit has options to take it, to cancel it or do something in the middle ground. beyond that i can't predict. >> we'll go to sarasota, florida. john. >> hello there. >> good morning. >> good morning. i'm listening to this individual and i want to remind of an old story. i don't know if you ever heard of sutton? >> sure. >> famous bank robber of the '50s. after he was captured they asked him why he robbed banks.
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he said i go there because that's where they keep the money. the police of new york go to these areas because that's where the crime is. they have to stop the crime before it starts. whatever the percentage is of them grabbing guns, they're stopping crime before it starts. i don't know where mr. melbourne lives, but i would give you dollars todo nuts he lives in an all white crime free area. there's a reason why the cops go into this area because they know that's where the crime is. if he doesn't like it that's too bad. >> all right. >> i appreciate the point. i'll leave out the where do i live. i live in brooklyn. i used to work where you go in and you deal with the indigent defends who can't afford money to buy a lawyer.
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i have some personal and legal expertise in the area of crime fighting which is not by any means to did he finish the fact that these are tough questions and people wants their community safe while we want to uphold rights. now to the substantive part of the question. are they going in and are the police simply going where quote, unquote, the crime is? let's leave my opinion out of it. what the judge found yesterday with regard to that question is no. the statistics do not show even when you control for variables like the crime rate in certain neighborhood that the police were actually very good at targeting individuals who were criminals, okay? that's an important distinction here because i think this case might have been resolved if there was some racial disparity, but a very good record of actually identifying potential criminals. that's not the case. what the judge found and people can read the opinion for
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themselves. what the judge found when you control for crime and racial disparities there was an overwhelming selection of minority men over other individuals. that's why the statistics i mentioned earlier are so important. with regard to the question of, well, do his pan ticks commit more crime and should they be targeted this way? the afters of course 89% of the people selected in the program are not found guilty of anything, let alone serious crimes. they couldn't get something for a summons or a ticket let alone most people think is a real problem in their communities a-crime that could effect you or pose a threat of violence. what the judge said, this isn't working at all. what it's doing is using a very weak indicator, race to rar has and last year 500,000 people, 89% of whom were not guilty of anything. the people have to find a better way to find these potential
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criminals than systematically searching and stopping and public humiliating so many new yorkers who are innocent who are also look a certain way. and so i think anyone who has gone through that situation to ask about personal experience would tell you it doesn't seem fair and the record at an aggregate level from 2004 to 2012 the pendency where the case was looking at this data, 4.4 million searches the data didn'ts allow them to make the kind of defense that the caller envisions because the numbers aren't there. >> going to your series on msnbc presumed guilty, here's a tweet who says the jury system is a farce >> we have a lot of problems in the jury system. a lot of people feel that the
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jury is bedrock baseline of our democratic system. it's subject to the will and the sort of untrained reactions of all the citizens who end up on injuries. there is a lot of concern about particularly how injuries work, particularly when you don't have very clear guidelines for what to do of people who watch a case on tv will sometimes feel like they're coming to a different conclusion than they think any reasonable juror should. on the other hand, i think the reason why the system has managed to survive for so long is that it is ultimately a democratic check on what prosecutors are or elected officials might document we've seen injuries again and again really buck the trend or the pressure or the hype that might be circulating around a certain case and come to their own decision. does that mean they'll always get it right? probably not. but it doesn't leave our faith totally up in the air.
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the criminal context as many people know from watching any law & order episodes we don't ask jurors simply to figure out who probably did what. we set a standard they have to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt and that means if someone is likely to have done something we predetermineed an outcome that is better for them not to be found guilty than to be sending innocent people away and that's a long debate as well. i think there's room to look at the problems with the jury system but as for racial disparity and what we look at in the presumed guilty series it is far less a source of some of the systemic inequalities and how often we let for pro fitted prisons determine public policy and harsh sentencing as opposed to rehabilitation. >> we'll go to betsy next. birmingham, obama, democratic
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caller. >> good morning >> good morning, betsy. >> watching every day. i love you. my comment is this: i'm glad you're explaining this because i wish c-span could have had you and him on at the same time so we could look at a different view. but you're so right. i want to ask american men especially and the women also and minorities and hispanics, start studying the law. learn the law. learn different points of the law. the truth that you are speaking here, constitutionality about stopping and it was racially bias and bias toward minority men and hispanic and african-american men and they
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could have gone on time square and did the same thing. i'm an african-american and i know there is crime in our area but we want our constitutional rights not trampled on. i would speak about the mandatory sentencing that holder wanted to strike down. that's what we need to find out and that's what american men need to learn more about that, too. >> okay, mr. melber. >> thanks for the comment. one other point we haven't gotten too, traditionally the kind of stop that nypd was using is only legal if they don't feel detained the way police can make you come down to the station it for an arrest but rather they're talking to you and you're free to walk away.
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i don't think anyone who has seen any of these practices if you look at a data would view this as a voluntary activity and the judge refrpbs to that in looking at some of the examples. one of the plaintiffs who was stopped repeated times right in thinks neighborhood as a law abiding citizen he didn't feel at all this was a voluntary. can you look to him and other people who told their stories. the matter of education combines with having the courts and having, i think, a government that really respects people's rights because it only goes so far if you say technically the supreme court told me i can walk away from an officer. but in the moment it doesn't feel that way at all. that's reality and that goes farther unfortunately than even the legal precedent you might happen to know about. as for what eric holder is proposing in specifics, i think what's important is this is a step back towards having judges and prosecutors figure out what
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should face an individual. and so, that gets you away from the one size fits all very arbitrary idea that everyone should get the max penalty. it's a max because it's supposed to be for the max worst crime. and there may be cases pursuant to drug use there is bad stuff going on and people want to put someone in for the max. we've had our entire approach to sentencing and rehabilitation turned upside down during the war on drugs by saying everyone gets the max, well then it's not a max, it's a minimum and that's why the language folds in on itself. i think it's a huge problem. >> dr wants to go back to the case of the stop and frisk in new york and he tweets, can people wrongfully -- can people who are wrongfully searched sue
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new york city? >> sure. yeah, you can do under a federal lawsuit you can always sue for vindication of your constitutional rights. that is part of what we had in this case. the big question for policy is whether you're suing as an individual seeking some sort of personal restitution, damages, i got hurt, i want money that type of thing versus trying to actually have some sort of class action or multiple plaintiffs who are seeking a change to the policy. in this case, it had several plaintiffs, people who had been subjected to the policy who were suing but they were suing together in concert with the center for constitutional rights seeking big policy changes and end to the program as we know it. and that permanent injunction they won did that. so there is more than one root to sue but really you can always -- if you have an actual tangible federal individual right compromise, you always
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have that as a section of the law that provides for that. i will mention since you're polling questions from twitter, whatever we don't get to in the broadcast i'm on twitter at re melber or if you use the presumed guilty hashtag i'll try to answer more after the broadcast as well. >> if you want to learn more they can go to msnbc/presumed guilty about the series. go ahead, sandra. >> i would like to see the law -- not law but the criminal justice system looked over because they're doing drugs. they're doing everything. and why are we listening to them when they need guidance themselves. we need their protection, yes. but most of the time you hear a lot about them. they're turning around and they are touching like people that are innocent. they did with my son who never
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did a darn thing and my grandchildren, they got into pot and they were smoking it and there's a lot of it going on all over the place. it's a very sick, sick society right now. and the thing of it is, when they get into the pot, they go to other things sometimes. but when they need help, and they are sent away because they've done that, and they come out of the prison system, they have no where to go, no where to turn to. the drugs make them ease up and have someone speak to them are not there. why don't we change this whole thing? because if you're going to allow marijuana to be a free thing for people to get, give them the things that they need which is help and a justice system that really works. >> all right, sandra. >> look, the caller is touching on a lot of important stuff.
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number one, no one is suggesting that just because we don't want to do punishments for certain drugs or pot on par with say manslaughter, someone is suggesting that means people should go out and be addicted to drugs or is that necessarily a great quality of life and approach of life. i think the caller raises the issue of recidivism and what do we do with people who have unillegal act which is drug use or something which doesn't mean they're choosing a life of crime but they have something they're struggling with. how do we separate that out from the people who need the most severe punishment that i was referring to? pot is complicated because, look, it is defacto did he criminalized in a lot of states. so government is saying we'll allow it and look the other way or allow it for medical use while the federal government has
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not changed the classification and treat it as a potentially serious punishable crime. how do you deal with that and take people who may be caught up in the criminal aspect of drug use and treat that in a way that doesn't make them more likely to recommit. the recidivism rates are north of 40% in three years you're likely to go back in jail. you have drug courts and rehabilitation courts that focus more on trying to help people who want to get away from a life of drugs or away from a habit and deal with that as the primary goal rather than the expensive punishment of them as if they were a serious criminal, hardened criminal or violent offender. the other piece not to miss it, i'm talking about law and i'm a lawyer, but obviously there is a broader question of the communities we live in and the families we're in and how we as a society create opportunities
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for people and give people other solutions and excitements because in many cases many people who are serious drug offenders or users with a habit or addiction are people who have lost sight of other opportunity orz didn't feel they had a lot of opportunities. and that's not to absolve them of their personal responsibility, buzz i think there are broader questions beyond the law of how we raise your families and our communities as well obviously. >> here's a comment. jails and prisons produce some of the best criminals america has to offer. ashley, houston, texas, democratic caller. go ahead, ashley. >> i really -- my comment on this is for the young black male. i haven't had any trouble with the police or criminal history. because i'm a female and i'm african-american i've never been
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stopped. but, i have a 36-year-old son who has never been in jail, never had any problems with the police, married with three children and trying to live and have a good life. he's pulled over all the time. all the time. even when his children have been with him. in fact, he told me the last time he was pulled over, the cop asked him when was the last time you were in jail? he said i've never been to jail. so they ran his ticket stub oh license plate and he said the police officers attitude changed after he found out that he was not a criminal. but, the damage was already done. >> all right. >> it's such an important point. it comes up stpht stop and frisk ruling we've been discussing because there really is an
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extended side conversation, not the core of the ruling but the judge has a conversation about the fact that when you systematically treat innocent people this way with the obvious correlation of mistreatment based on race, you're undermining their faith and legitimacy in the system and community policing which something that people talk about as well relies on some sort of faith and trust between the community and neighborhood and people in it who are being policed and the police officers themselves. so, you have more than one cost. you have the individual cost which is hard to put into words but i think the caller did it very well of a person who is a father, a husband and a productive member of the community and law abiding citizen being repeatedly singled out and mistreated, if again, i don't know that personal situation, but if it fits with so many of the stories were the
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pred cat of the ruling, in a way that was humiliating and counterproductive and your heart goes out to those individuals, like in new york over 500,000 stopped that. was something that really took the authority and the force of the nypd and divided the city along racial lines so it's very serious and very important that we look beyond not only sort of the draw legal analysis of it although that's important as an ow socie but the deep human cost. we're not talking about every police department and every member of the force. in most cases in the nypd force the members were carrying out a policy. you give them better instructions and they could carry out a different policy. so, i would also mention in doing their job they risk their lives for us and they're asked
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to do their job but because of a bad policy from the top that i described from mayor bloomberg those officers can be caught in a cycle of that humiliation that they don't want to be a party of either. trouble. how you explain that you have the right to do this to people. stop a f